- Valerie Just
Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn't Honey
I found this article on the Food Safety News site; the article is dated November 7, 2011, written by Andrew Schneider. I have no qualms in posting this article that is 8 years old due to the fact that there hasn't been any legislation passed over these 8 years that changes any of the information presented in the article. I think it is an important article for us all, but especially if you do not purchase your honey from a reputable beekeeper.
Food Safety News had various honey tested by a reputable scientist in Texas at the Texas A&M University. I encourage you to access the article through the link provided below, and read the test results.
This article also supports a series of Netflix documentaries called Rotten. The first episode of Season 1 reveals in the opening episode that things are not so sweet in the global honey business, as the program explores the largest food fraud investigation and prosecution in history – a scam known as “Honeygate” – in which United States Customs busted a honey-smuggling ring.
If you have access to Netflix, I encourage you to spend the time to watch this documentary, as well as the other really good documentaries associated with this series.
Excerpts from the article:
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. However, the FDA isn’t checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.
Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.
The Sioux Honey Association, who says it’s America’s largest supplier, declined repeated requests for comments on ultra-filtration, what Sue Bee does with its foreign honey and whether it’s ultra-filtered when they buy it. The co-op markets retail under Sue Bee, Clover Maid, Aunt Sue, Natural Pure and many store brands.
You’ll Never Know
In many cases, consumers would have an easier time deciphering state secrets than pinning down where the honey they’re buying in groceries actually came from.
The majority of the honey that Bryant’s analysis found to have no pollen was packaged as store brands by outside companies but carried a label unique to the food chain. For example, Giant Eagle has a ValuTime label on some of its honey. In Target it’s called Market Pantry, Naturally Preferred and others. Walmart uses Great Value and Safeway just says Safeway. Wegmans also uses its own name.
Who actually bottled these store brands is often a mystery.
A noteworthy exception is Golden Heritage of Hillsboro, Kan. The company either puts its name or decipherable initials on the back of store brands it fills.
“We’re never bashful about discussing the products we put out” said Wenger, the company’s quality director. “We want people to know who to contact if they have questions.”
The big grocery chains were no help in identifying the sources of the honey they package in their store brands.
Pollen? Who Cares?
Why should consumers care if their honey has had its pollen removed?
“Raw honey is thought to have many medicinal properties,” says Kathy Egan, dietitian at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. “Stomach ailments, anemia and allergies are just a few of the conditions that may be improved by consumption of unprocessed honey.”
But beyond pollen’s reported enzymes, antioxidants and well documented anti-allergenic benefits, a growing population of natural food advocates just don’t want their honey messed with.
There is enormous variety among honeys. They range in color from glass-clear to a dark mahogany and in consistency from watery to chunky to a crystallized solid. It’s the plants and flowers where the bees forage for nectar that will determine the significant difference in the taste, aroma and color of what the bees produce. It is the processing that controls the texture.
FDA Ignores Pleas
John Ambrose’s battle for a national definition goes back 36 years. He said the issue is of great importance to North Carolina because it has more beekeepers than any other state in the country.
He and others tried to convince FDA that a single national standard for honey to help prevent adulterated honey from being sold was needed. The agency promised him it would be on the books within two years.
“But that never happened,” said Ambrose, a professor and entomologist at North Carolina State University and apiculturist, or bee expert. North Carolina followed Florida’s lead and passed its own identification standards last year.
Ambrose, who was co-chair of the team that drafted the state beekeeper association’s honey standards says the language is very simple, “Our standard says that nothing can be added or removed from the honey. So in other words, if somebody removes the pollen, or adds moisture or corn syrup or table sugar, that’s adulteration,” Ambrose told Food Safety News.
But still, he says he’s asked all the time how to ensure that you’re buying quality honey. “The fact is, unless you’re buying from a beekeeper, you’re at risk,” was his uncomfortably blunt reply. Eric Silva, counsel for the American Honey Producers Association said the standard is a simple but essential tool in ensuring the quality and safety of honey consumed by millions of Americans each year.
“Without it, the FDA and their trade enforcement counterparts are severely limited in their ability to combat the flow of illicit and potentially dangerous honey into this country,” Silva told Food Safety News.
It’s not just beekeepers, consumers and the industry that FDA officials either ignore or slough off with comments that they’re too busy. New York Sen. Charles Schumer is one of more than 20 U.S. senators and members of Congress of both parties who have asked the FDA repeatedly to create a federal “pure honey” standard, similar to what the rest of the world has established.
They get the same answer that Ambrose got in 1975: “Any day now.”